In 2016 I was a local Target’s Baby Advisor. It was truly the happiest job I’ve ever had, I just adored it. Sadly it was a pilot program that they chose not to keep. But for a year I got to keep a department stocked and neat all the while helping parents find what they need… 40 hours a week. But my favorite part of the job was helping a new parent register for their shower.
Of course, to do this properly I was smart enough to drag my mother in to help me in the world of babies. A world I’d passed out of 13 years ago, now that my sons were teens! And since she is one of the world authorities on babies and breastfeeding for 40 years, now teaching the next doctor generation as USC, my mother gave me lots of great advice to pass on to parents. Today, I’m working a different position and cannot give this advice out any longer. So I thought I’d do a blog post. After all, I have several co-worker’s who are expecting!! Ah, but where to start. I know….. let’s start with chemicals!
Stay away from Lavender!!! Tons of baby products now contain lavender as a “way to make a baby sleep” but a newborn’s skin is so thin it is practically porous and it has recently be determined that lavender, when absorbed into baby’s skin, is an endocrine disruptor. So that product will go and mess with the baby’s hormones. Oh, and the way lavender “calms”…it slows a heart rate. NOT a good thing for a newborn. Save it for when baby is much older.
And on that ‘newborn baby’s thin skin’ note… you do NOT need to put diaper cream on baby as a “preventative”…that is a petroleum product baby’s absorbing into his system. You do NEED 1 tube of diaper cream but it must be 40% zinc oxide. Anything less and it won’t be strong enough to be an effective barrier to protect baby’s skin. So IF baby gets a rash, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water (baby wipes won’t be enough) and coat the area with 40% zinc oxide…every diaper change… until baby’s skin heals itself. And any wash you use should have as few ingredients as possible. And you don’t need lotion. If baby’s skin is a little flaky that is normal skin shedding, don’t put a product on that baby’s body will absorb.
Most people wanted my opinion on brands… and the most I could give them was what other people told me because these brands didn’t exist when my kids were babies. TONS of parents loved the wipes of 7th Generation, but not so much the diapers. What I advised was to get a small packet of ALL the brands because they weren’t going to know which diaper or wipe would work best on baby’s skin or bum until baby was out. Register for it all in small packets to try and large packets to either use or bring back for credit to buy what DID work. PAD that registry because you’re going to need LOTS of diapers & you might as well let your friends buy them.
Let’s talk car seats and strollers. These are completely a personal preference. But in making your choices, know a few facts. A car seat carrier can seem convenient but baby will grow out of it by around 12 months. As soon as their head gets to within 1 inch of the top they are too big for it and you’ll need a full car seat. Also realize that ALL car seats meet federal standards so your choice may be based on how wide it is, what does the material feel like, how many car seat stages does it do (there are 4), does it recline and… iconic to this day age…how many cup holders does it have. And when choosing a stroller, go try it out if you can. These days they’re much more versatile than they used to be. Just a note on jogger strollers. Guys love these because they look big and cool.. but ask yourself, will I REALLY be jogging WITH my baby….because those joggers are heavy! And unless you’re ONLY using it when you jog, they are impractical for every day use.
DO make sure you also get the wearable baby carriers. Because on Mom or Dad is the true natural habitat for baby. You’ve seen those babies wearing the helmets? That’s because baby spent too much time lying on his head in a carrier, crib or bouncy and the back of his head grew flat. So now he has to wear a helmet to fix it. DON’T be that parent! Get a wearable carrier, any carrier, and prevent this. And know that all babies have reflux and while some babies aren’t bothered by this, others cannot handle it at all; and being upright is their happiest position. Studies have shown being on a parent naturally calms baby. www.kangaroomothercare.com Plus it leaves hands free to push a cart shopping!
There is a myth you should know about…the myth that swaddling baby is good for baby. It is not. There have been actual deaths attributed to swaddling a baby. This information is straight from USC. For the first 2 weeks of a baby’s life they are nocturnal, yet they still have to eat 7-8 times in a 24 hour period. Guess when that is going to happen? Yes at night. Factor in, part of a baby’s natural waking process is movement, specifically movement of arms, and you get a situation where a swaddled baby goes into baby snooze because he cannot move, misses a feeding and wakes too hungry to sort out breastfeeding. And some babies will move their body so much they will roll and if he doesn’t have free arms he can smother…(those were the deaths). Swaddling was popularized by nursery nurses to create easy to move baby bundles. But “baby snooze” is detrimental to a newborn trying to learn breastfeeding and his new environment. There are wonderful baby Sleep Sacks that allow freedom of movement and warmth for baby in a crib. Just don’t swaddle their arms!!
While we are on the topic of sleep, I would encourage you to have baby sleep as near you as possible. This lets you get as much sleep as you can during those 2 weeks nocturnal adjustment. The phrase “sleep when baby sleeps” works better if baby is near your bed! Some travel bassinets are wonderful to literally put in your bed! Summer sells one for only $20. And some fancy cribs can be shoved next to your bed in daybed mode and be a great co-sleeper. If you have the space. Remember… all these tactics are there to help you get sleep while still answering baby’s needs to eat and be near you.
Bouncers, walkers, playtime mats, toys; what is good for baby? The answer is all of it and none of it. lol…. really! Generations did without these gadgets with no harm. Bouncers’ entertain baby but don’t let baby develop his neck muscles for movement. Are walker’s better for baby than encouraging him to crawl and cruise the furniture when he’s ready? People often think baby’s are bored when they cry out in frustration but perhaps that’s because they are mentally ready to move up in development and NEED that boredom to drive them to pursue movement. That’s where play mats and toys help. And yes, you’re baby doesn’t LIKE being on his tummy in the beginning when his neck muscles are underdeveloped… but how else is he going to develop them. So lots of short repeated bursts of mat time on his front is the solution. And if his tummy is full he won’t want to be on it either, so put a little rolled up towel under his chest when his head gets stronger. And play with your baby.
Now, let’s talk formula. Truthfully almost all formula is cow milk based. And what they DON’T tell you is all formula also causes micro-bleeds in baby’s intestinal tract which is WHY formula has added iron! Without it all formula fed babies would get anemic. The “gentle” formula and “sensitive” formula is mostly marketing hype. And it might seem to work, but there is NO scientific study that proves it. Yes, I’m pretty anti-formula and yes I understand there are some who must have it. But there is a lot of information that new parents DON’T get about formula before they give it that they would be shocked to know. For instance, Dr. Nils Bergman did a study on the link between formula and obesity. (formula is slow to digest and unnaturally stretches the stomach of a newborn…every feed, 8 times a day, for a year…yes… that will have an impact). There was also a link between formula and allergies when they realized a newborn’s stomach lining in the first week isn’t fully sealed at birth with micro-holes that formula proteins can slide through into the body triggering early onset allergies. And let’s face it, formula is bloody expensive!!!
Whew! O.K…. let’s talk Breastfeeding. Just a few tips. First off, Mom….breastfeeding is NOT your success or failure…. it is BABY’S! Yes, breastfeeding is completely driven by baby in a supply and demand system. It is incomprehensibly rare for a mother NOT to be able to produce milk if her baby has a good suck and nursing 8-12 times a day with all the required wet diapers. (Note: all newborn diapers are poop diapers…Day 1 = 1 poop diaper, Day 2 = 2 poop diapers, up to Day 7 where you’ll average 7-8 a day.) So if it seems you’re having trouble with breastfeeding it is almost always a problem with baby… not with you! Tongue and lip tie is the MOST common problem, but sometimes baby is neurologically underdeveloped to handle the complex motions of suckling and swallowing. (bottles take no effort which is why getting a bottle makes going to breastfeeding difficult.) The last stage of womb development is neurological and if baby comes out early they are often still developing this and we are needing them to breastfeed. (But remember we are trying to avoid formula for the first week to avoid allergies so conundrum!)
But there are some techniques I learned from the Queen…(me mum) First off: don’t use Boppy’s or pillow or sit up in chairs…recline like an empress at a 45 degree angle, put baby on top of your chest (skin to skin preferably) with baby half awake and let him move himself down to your breast to self attach. This works his neurological development with movement and he will get on the breast in the position that works for him and do it right! Half the breastfeeding struggles is baby isn’t on correctly or we start with a crying frustrated baby who can’t coordinate their tongue and end up doing more gnawing than suckling. There are films on this Self Attachment method all over the internet… go watch one. Second off: there are cultures who isolate baby and mom for the first month. USE THIS! People want to see baby?…Skype. People want to help you?…. tell them to bring food, do the laundry, clean your house… but YOU and the baby need every moment of those first 3o days to set up proper breastfeeding. BE the Queen you were while pregnant during that time. You have the most important job…feeding baby. Three: Trust your instinct as a mother. Find a Lactation Consultant or a Doula or someone with CURRENT experience to answer all those questions you will have, because you are going to have tons of questions!
To recap… the things you MUST have are pretty simple. Car seat, variety of newborn diaper packages & wipes, hooded towel, baby washcloths, some type of bathtub, 40% zinc oxide diaper cream, mild wash, bassinet or crib or co-sleeper (or like me with my 3rd a 6″ deep foam piece on the floor beside my bed lol), wearable baby-carrier, a detergent with no dies or perfumes (Tide Free N Clear is fine and wash EVERYONE’S clothes in it as baby will go on people), onesies, a Sleep Sack, changing pad. Everything else might be extras for a later purchase once you get to know about this amazingly new job called parenting.